Colombia

Resilient
Beijing’s Media Influence Efforts
Low
29 85
Local Resilience & Response
Notable
38 85
Scores are based on a scale of 0 (least influence) to 85 (most influence)

header1 Key findings

Report by: Ellie Young and Dr. Carolina Urrego-Sandoval

 

  • Low influence, but growing media presence: Beijing’s media footprint in Colombia is small, due in part to the country’s historically close ties with the United States and, until recently, its limited relationship with China. However, bilateral trade with China, Chinese direct investment, and public-private partnerships between the two countries have grown significantly in recent years. Under the leadership of a highly engaged and telegenic ambassador Lan Hu who took office in 2020, the Chinese embassy developed a sophisticated media engagement strategy in Colombia and sought to deepen ties with major national news outlets. President Iván Duque’s pursuit of close ties with Beijing also opened new cooperation opportunities with the Chinese government in the media sector and beyond. The left-wing Gustavo Petro, who assumed the presidency in August 2022, is expected to continue his predecessor’s friendly engagement with China.
  • Support for bilateral ties with China, but wariness of growing influence: In Colombia, 53 percent of respondents to a 2020 survey conducted by Americas Barometer believed that Chinese influence in the region was negative. However, a majority of Colombians continued to view bilateral relations as being broadly good and thought that trade with China was good for Colombia’s development. According to a 2021 content analysis by the academic Carolina Urrego-Sandoval, local media coverage of Chinese investments was generally positive, but likely limited by a lack of knowledge and capacity to report on topics connected to China. Negative coverage tended to focus on concerns regarding human rights violations and environmental degradation connected to Chinese companies’ operations in Colombia. Chinese companies’ involvement in the long-delayed Bogotá metro project have also been a considerable source of controversy.
  • Limited direct dissemination of Chinese state media content: Within Colombia, China Global Television Network and China Central Television are available online or via satellite television, but their audiences are limited. Spanish-language Chinese state media such as Xinhua Español and Pueblo en Linea are available online, although these cater to broader regional audiences. National media outlets such as El Tiempo, El Espectador, La República, and the business magazine Portafolio sometimes publish free and paid content provided by Chinese diplomatic or state media entities, although at least one media outlet turned down Xinhua’s efforts to establish a formal content-sharing agreement during the report coverage.
  • Growing cooperation with media outlets and friendly voices: Colombian media outlets have participated in Chinese initiatives to boost regional media cooperation, such as the Beijing-hosted 2020 Latin America Partners Media Cooperation Online Forum and the 2021 China-LAC Media Action initiative. While efforts to disseminate Chinese state media content directly have had limited success, alignment with friendly local voices has arguably been more successful. Influential local leaders including President Duque have voiced support for Chinese government initiatives, including vaccine diplomacy, and attended the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.
  • Media narratives tout multilateral cooperation, economic partnership: Chinese state media and diplomats in Colombia portray China as a reliable partner for economic development and promote multilateralism—often presenting China as an alternative to the “hegemonic” United States. Chinese diplomats promote their preferred narratives on controversial topics such as China’s early handling of the coronavirus, restrictive national security legislation in Hong Kong, and friction surrounding diplomatic and trade relations between China and the United States. At times, the embassy has embarked on specific messaging campaigns around key anniversaries such as the 2020 centennial of the Chinese Communist Party. There was also a notable countermessaging push to shore up the legitimacy of Chinese-style “democracy” ahead of the United States-led Summit for Democracy in December 2021.
  • No disinformation campaigns: There was no evidence of disinformation campaigns involving inauthentic bot activity that targeted or reached news consumers in Colombia during the coverage period.
  • Small Chinese diaspora: Colombia’s population of ethnic and diaspora Chinese is one of the smallest in Latin America, estimated at 8,000 people. The diaspora media ecosystem is minimal, although individuals may consume other Chinese-language media available online or rely on WeChat or other China-based apps for news content.
  • Media and legal safeguards against foreign influence: Colombia has strong laws restricting foreign media ownership and a historically robust press, providing a foundation for resilience to potential malign or coercive media influence. Colombia’s vibrant civil society has also been active in researching disinformation and foreign influence, and during the report coverage period new initiatives to monitor and respond to Beijing’s state-sponsored disinformation and influence efforts were developed, including research conducted by the Andres Bello Foundation.
  • Media vulnerabilities: Journalists face systemic challenges including extralegal surveillance carried out by intelligence agencies, the military, and the police as well as intimidation or harassment by illegal armed groups that impede their work. Local knowledge about China and the Chinese Communist Party is low, affecting the capacity for local reporters to develop expertise on China, and news audiences’ interest in the topic.

 

The full Colombia country report will be posted as soon as it becomes available. 

On Colombia

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  • Global Freedom Score

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  • Internet Freedom Score

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